Once you arrive you’ll go through immigration, pick up your bags, and then must pass through customs before you exit the terminal.
On the airplane you may get the customs form. It asks you to declare everything you are bringing into the country. If you receive a copy of this form, list one line, “personal effects”, with a value of question marks. If you have anything special or awkward, like scuba gear or a kayak or bike, list these separately, with question marks on the value again. Declare food or get rid of it before you arrive.
You will have more chances to be stopped at customs if you have more than 2 suitcases/bags per person. If you have any food (including fruits, vegetables, sausages, etc.) or substances which can be sniffed by dogs, you will be stopped.
After getting off the plane you will first be shuffled through the immigration area, where they will check your passport. Once through passport control go downstairs to pick up your luggage (you can use free transportation metal carts). If you have more than 2 bags per person you will go through customs inspection; 2 or fewer, and have a U.S., Canadian or European passport they generally waive you past.
It is recommendable to speak only English (even if you speak fluent Spanish) or some other language to make it clear you are not a resident. The customs people are really only interested in inspecting returning Costa Ricans who may be bringing back things from their travels. If an agent asks to inspect your bags, allow him to do so, but continue to “not understand” his Spanish. If you have things we’ve asked you to take down, don’t volunteer these during inspection; they are “personal goods” because the guides will be using them during your trip.
After clearing customs you cannot remove the bag from the area unless you produce the claim check. They really do check the numbers match, too.
All foreign representatives are based in San Jose.
- United States: Phone:(506)2519-2000 / Website;
- Canada: Phone:(506)2242-4400 / Website
- Germany: Phone:(506)2290-9091 / Website
- Japan: Phone:(506)2232-1255 / Website
- Italy: Phone:(506)2234-2326 / Website
- Netherlands: Phone:(506)2296-1490 / Website
Upon arrival, you will have many options for ground transportation to your accommodation and throughout Costa Rica.
You can rent cars in many locations and at both international airports. You can usually reserve a car on-line before leaving for Costa Rica. For travel in Guanacaste, it is recommended that you rent a mid-size (or larger) 4-wheel drive vehicle. Many of the roads can be rough or are simply dirt and can become a challenge, particularly the months when it rains (see weather). Unless you prefer a manual transmission, request an automatic. Call the rental location directly in Costa Rica to confirm the request for an automatic transmission.
You must have a valid driver’s license and a credit card to rent a vehicle. The current standard security deposit is $1500.00 (USD), which will be posted to your account as a “hold” until you return the vehicle. Be sure to have this much available credit on a card before you arrive. Unless you credit card provides complete insurance coverage, take the insurance from the rental company.
Do not rent the cheapest car (tiny compact) and expect to drive it across the entire country. You will regret it.
You can take taxis throughout the country. Your accommodation may also arrange a taxi driver to meet you at the airport when you arrive. If you are not sure you will need a rental car for the entire time, you can take a taxi to your vacation condo or hotel and rent one later near where you are staying. Negotiate the cost of trips from the airports in advance. You can also hire a taxi driver by the day for side trips. Simply negotiate a fee for the day before you leave on the side trip. Also, confirm if gasoline costs will be charged in addition to the fee. With the rise in gasoline prices, this is increasingly common.
In the bigger cities, short trips can be charged by the meter or negotiated in advance. Make sure whether the meter is working before getting into a cab and starting your trip. Rates have been recently raised, but should be posted in each cab.
Costa Rica has an extensive bus system that services not only the metropolitan areas, but travels to most sections of the country. Fares are relatively cheap. There is a point-to-point minivan system called Interbus that can be very convenient for side trips taking longer than one day. It can be ordered by telephone. Ask your vacation rental service or accommodation for assistance.